開發者談Rocket League打算如何塑造電子競技的未來

原作者:Christopher Dring 譯者:Willow Wu

Psyonix向我們詳述了他們的雄心壯志以及如何地把飛車足球競技遊戲引領成主流運動

這個故事是關於電子競技成爲國際賽事,登上主流電視臺,這些個令人興奮的事。

就其本身來說,這些事件對電子競技的未來並沒有那麼重要。這是一項現代運動,大家都在Twitch上觀看,BBC也沒必要廣播。雖說要是能看到玩家像國家運動員那樣拿冠軍是一件很酷的事,但是電競不像那些比賽,遊戲種類繁多,性質比較複雜。

然而這篇文章的重點就是電子競技在主流中的潛力。夢想着能在報紙體育版面看到電子競技的報道,在Sky Sports的黃金時段播放賽事,把世界各地的家庭吸引到屏幕前,爲他們最喜歡的隊伍喝彩。絕大部分的人對足球都是看得多,玩得少——要是Call of Duty也是這樣就好了對吧?

但很不幸的是,電子競技並不是主流。電競遊戲相當複雜,或者說相當暴力,也有的兩者都是。有些遊戲很難玩,有些比較容易上手,但是那些都是基於現實存在的運動(例如FIFA或者NBA 2K),那麼煩人的問題來了:既然都有現實的東西可以看,你爲什麼還去看虛擬的玩意兒?

去年,我參加了一個面向主流媒體和管理機構的電競活動。組織者們想要在舞臺上展示電子競技,但是不確定要選擇哪種遊戲——暴力射擊遊戲或者是密集的多人在線戰術競技遊戲(MOBA),哪種都不適合。

The Rocket League Championship(from gamesindustry.biz)

The Rocket League Championship(from gamesindustry.biz)

Psyonix的電競部門老闆Josh Watson

當英國零售商GAME發佈Belong的銷售網點時(在本地商店中就可以進行電子競技,相當便捷),他們面臨着類似的挑戰。大多數熱門的電競遊戲是不太適合在大白天就在零售店裏放出來。

最終,上述兩方都選擇了同樣的答案:Rocket League。

對於主流運動來說,飛車足球賽遊戲是個完美的產品。上手簡單,它只是用汽車玩足球,但也是足以讓人爲之瘋狂,因爲你只能在遊戲中才能這樣玩。也難怪NBC Universal要用這遊戲爲他們日後在電視上播放電競節目開路。

“Rocket League在2015年7月發售,社區小組們立刻對這個遊戲產生了濃厚的興趣,接着就發起了聯賽,”Psyonix電競部門負責人Josh Watson說道。

“所以Rocket League電競在很大程度上是在社區中產生的。”正是有了廣大草根的支持,有了聯賽組織者和忠實粉絲,才能組成這樣一個滿腔熱血的社區。如今我們擁有數十個社區小組,每年他們都在籌劃上百個線上聯賽和各種活動,因此它真的是從草根中壯大起來的。”

發行部門的副總Jeremy Dunham補充道:“通過我們和玩家的直接對話…瞭解到他們希望能有更多的機會讓Rocket League成爲一款規模更大的電子競技遊戲。”這正是我們現在努力所做的事。

“人們在電子競技領域犯的最大錯誤之一就是他們只聚焦在那一撮機會最小的用戶身上,可是那幾十個人都可以靠電子競技謀生了。我們想要電子競技給人的感覺是小聯盟或者是足球聯賽那樣的,人們可以玩各種各樣的級別,從新手級到專家級都有。這樣的話人人都有機會去玩Rocket League,感受到參與其中。這就需要一個龐大的計劃還有大量基礎設施建設,我們現在正努力朝那方面發展。”

去年,Psyonix在三個地區(歐洲、北美和澳洲)舉辦了比賽,獎品價值高達60萬美元。賽事舉辦得很成功,6000個隊伍參加參與其中,1百萬人收看,還有1千萬人通過Twitch收看。

Psyonix現在努力想要把數據提高,投入了250萬把Rocket League發展成電子競技遊戲。

“我們想要電子競技給人的感覺是小聯盟或者是足球聯賽那樣的,人們可以玩各種各樣的級別,從新手級到專家級都有。”——Jeremy Dunham, Psyonix

後來,Psyonix又在遊戲中加入了新的功能,類似於電競一鍵直播功能(這樣話人們就能在遊戲中觀看了)。他們還增加了新的聯賽,擴大到新的地區範圍,給觀衆贈送遊戲道具,出席更多大規模的遊戲節,並且還跟NBC, ESL, Gfinity, Dreamhack等等公司簽下合約。

他們還製作了RLCS (Rocket League Championship Series) Overtime show,每週固定播出。它近期的電競決賽成了該周收視率最高的節目,觀看時間總計長達280萬個小時——比League of Legends還多了100萬。

“其中有些數據包括229萬獨立觀衆,同時觀看人數有20.8萬,這些人來自7種不同語言的國家…這算是非常令人震撼的大數據了,”Watson說。“從客觀來看,從第2季到第3季,視頻播放量增加了604%,同時觀看人數最高紀錄增加了340%,社交媒體影響力增加了251%,獨立觀衆數量增加了208%。這讓RLCS的前景一片光明。”

公司甚至吸引來了非遊戲贊助商,包括Old Spice, 7Eleven, Transformers: The Last Knight and Mobil1都簽了合同,支持他們的聯賽。

聽起來真是一帆風順,不過這些數據已經不能帶給人們什麼新驚喜了,成千上萬的同時觀看人數和珍稀的獎品池差不多已經變成了白噪音。這些對Rocket League來說都是不錯營銷合作,但是真的能靠它們繼續盈利嗎?

“我們的最關注的事情之一就是爲我們的社區的提供競爭的空間。” Watson承認,“重點在於爲這個社區服務。他們非常渴望更高級別的競賽。”

然而華麗的聯賽並不能真正地令社區滿意。粉絲有節目觀看,但是對那些非精英玩家來說,最終還是個進不來的地方。Dunham和Watson一直都在用“草根”這個詞,那麼他們打算怎麼支持這羣人呢?

“在電競領域中,玩家是需要一條通向大師的道路。” Watson承認,“我們想創造這樣一個生態系統,你跟一羣厲害的玩家一起玩,他們想要參加競賽,但是不確定要怎麼才能參加聯賽。我們正在努力鋪好這條路,在這裏你可以明確知道怎麼才能成爲頂級高手。”

其中的一些部分也改變了RLCS的運作方式。

The Rocket League Championship Series正在改變。

“RLCS第四季,我們會把焦點轉換到創造出一個適合玩家和組織的新環境,” Watson解釋道,“遊戲鼓勵團隊製作長期計劃,目的是爲了能讓玩家在這種新環境下磨練技能,提高遊戲玩法的質量,這也能爲玩家、製作公司和贊助商對Rocket League的長期投資提供必要保障。

“我們下一步將會製作升級和降級系統。目前的RLCS基本上算是大型的公開聯賽,之後會進行淘汰,剩下最強的八支隊伍,如果你在前八強中佔據一席之地,你就可以參加小組賽,這通常是個很漫長的過程。如果你在資格賽的那天沒有表現好,那你就倒黴了,無法參加聯賽。這就是我們希望在升級/降級系統中嘗試解決的問題。每個地區現在都有16支隊伍,其中的前八強可以進入RLCS,也就是我們現在所說的頂級聯賽。16支隊伍的其中9支將會面臨新的挑戰,二級聯賽。我們希望能夠給玩家提供機會,走上競爭最激烈的舞臺,同時培養出明日之星。這意味着我們在RLCS將會有來自三個地區的40支隊伍參加比賽。

另外,Psyonix也在支持大學電競項目。

“這是跟Tespa合作的項目,他們曾舉辦過一些有名的校內活動例如Heroes of the Dorm,”Watson解釋道。“我們在7月初發布了學院版本的Rocket League series,這是我們的在學院電子競技的首次嘗試。這能夠讓所有北美地區的在校大學生以三人爲一組的方式加入到競賽中,贏得獎勵。”

Watson說假如其它地區也有需求,他很樂意把這項活動推廣到美國以外的區域。

這當然是極好不過的,而且Rocket League對此也有非常明確的意向,讓它走到更遠的地方去。現在Psyonix還在繼續把這個項目漫遊到世界各地。

“我們一直堅持的目標之一就是在電競領域製作一個優質的運動產品,”Watson總結道。“這就是我們的動力。總的來說,我們確信我們的遊戲是電競領域最棒的遊戲之一。”

本文由遊戲邦編譯,轉載請註明來源,或諮詢微信zhengjintiao

Psyonix details its ambitious efforts to turn its car football game into a mainstream sport

The stories about esports going to the olympics, or airing on mainstream TV, are exciting.

In itself, these moments are not that important to the future of competitive gaming. This is a modern sport, there’s no need for BBC broadcasts when millions are watching on Twitch. And as cool as it may be to see gamers at official sporting championships, these competitions are not suited to the complex nature of esports with all those different games.

Yet what these stories highlight is esports’ potential within the mainstream. The dream of seeing esports on the back pages of newspapers, taking prime time slots on Sky Sports and drawing in families around the world rooting for their favourite teams. Millions more watch football than play it – wouldn’t it be great if that was also true of Call of Duty?

Unfortunately, esports is not mainstream. The games are complicated, or violent, or both. Some are hard to follow, while the ones that are easier to grasp are often based on existing sports (such as FIFA or NBA 2K), and the nagging question there is why watch the virtual versions when you can see the real thing?

Last year I attended an event about esports targeted at mainstream media and Government. The organisers wanted to demonstrate esports on stage, but were unsure over which game to use – violent shooters or densely packed MOBAs were just not suitable.

Psyonix’s esports boss Josh Watson

When UK retailer GAME launched its Belong range of stores (effectively local esports areas within a shop) it was faced with a similar challenge. Most of the popular esports games are simply not appropriate to show in the middle of the day in a retail setting.

Both eventually hit upon the same answer: Rocket League.

The car football game is the perfect title for mainstream sports. It’s easy to follow as it is just soccer with cars, but also crazy enough that it can only be done in a video game. It’s no wonder NBC Universal is using the game in its efforts to develop a TV presence in esports.

“Rocket League launched in July 2015 and immediately community groups latched onto the game and started to create tournaments,” says Josh Watson, head of esports at developer Psyonix.

“So Rocket League esports was very much born from the community. It is that grass roots support that has made for a passionate community of tournament organisers and fans. Today we have several dozen community groups who are doing hundreds of online tournaments and events annually, so it has really ballooned up from the grassroots.”

VP of publishing Jeremy Dunham adds: “The conversations we’ve had directly with players… they want more opportunities for Rocket League to become a bigger esport. That is something we are focusing on a lot.

“One of the biggest mistakes people make in esports is that they only focus on the smallest possible audience, the 50 to 100 people who are good enough to make a living out of it. We want esports to feel more like little league or football, where people are playing at all levels, from childhood to the pros. That way there is always an opportunity to play Rocket League and be a part of something. That requires a massive plan and a lot of infrastructure, but we’re spending a good amount of time putting that in place.”

That plan is accelerating rapidly. Last year, Psyonix ran competitions in three regions (Europe, North America and Oceania), with $600,000 in prize money. It did well, with 6,000 teams taking part, 1m unique viewers and 10m channel views on Twitch.

Now Psyonix is trying to grow that rapidly, with a $2.5m investment in developing Rocket League as an esport.

“We want esports to feel more like little league or football, where people are playing at all levels, from childhood to the pros”
Jeremy Dunham, Psyonix

The company has since added new in-game functionality, like an esports live button (so people can watch in-game). They’ve added new tournaments, expanded to new regions, offered in-game items to viewers, appeared at more major festivals and has signed deals with NBC, ESL, Gfinity, Dreamhack and a whole lot more.

It has developed the RLCS (Rocket League Championship Series) Overtime show, which airs every week. And its last esports finals became the most watched esport of that week, with 2.8m hours of viewership – 1m more than League of Legends.

“Some of the numbers we saw included 2.29m unique viewers, 208,000 concurrent viewers across seven broadcasted languages… so some pretty big numbers,” says Watson. “To put that in perspective, between Season 2 and 3 we had a 640% increase in video watched, 340% in peak concurrent viewers, 251% increase in social media impressions, and 208% increase in unique viewers. It is incredibly promising for the RLCS moving forward.”

The firm is even attracting non-gaming sponsors, with Old Spice, 7Eleven, Transformers: The Last Knight and Mobil1 all signing up to support their tournaments.

The RLCS Overtime Twitch show

It all sounds good, but then esports figures always do. Millions of concurrent viewer numbers and outlandish prize pools have almost become white noise. It’s all good marketing for Rocket League, but is this actually a profit-generating endeavour?

“One of our focuses is on giving our community a place to play competitively,” Watson acknowledges. “It’s really about servicing this community. They’re hungry for this high level competition.”

Yet big flashy tournaments don’t really service the community. It gives fans something to watch, but ultimately it’s still prohibitive for anyone outside of the most elite gamers. Dunham and Watson keep using the term ‘grass roots’, so how are they looking to support that?

“There is this notion in esports about the path to pro,” acknowledges Watson. “We want to create this ecosystem where you are taking good players who might want to play competitively, but they’re really not sure how, to attending tournaments. We are trying to build out this path to pro, where it is clearly defined how you get to that top tier.”

Part of that is transforming how the RLCS works.

The Rocket League Championship Series is changing

“For RLCS season 4, we are shifting our focus to creating a sustainable environment for players and organisations,” Watson explains. “Teams will be incentivised to plan for the long-term, and the goal is to create an environment where players can hone their skills, which will improve the quality of the gameplay and it should also offer players, owners and sponsors the necessary security to invest in Rocket League for the long-term with confidence.

“We are moving to a promotion and relegation system. The RLCS is basically a big open tournament at the moment, and then it funnels down to the top eight teams, and if you make it to the top eight you can play in a group stage, which happens over a long period of time. What that doesn’t allow for is if you don’t perform well on the day of the qualifiers, then you’re out of luck. That is something we are trying to solve with the promotion/relegation system. Each region will now be comprised of 16 teams, with the top eight making it into the RLCS as we know it now… the top division. And the nine through 16 teams will have access to a challenger, second division. We are hoping to provide players the opportunity to compete at the highest level, whilst being able to cultivate talent for tomorrow’s stars. That means we will have 40 teams across three regions competing in the RLCS.”

What’s more, Psyonix is supporting college esports.

“It’s in partnership with Tespa, which is a group that runs some notable collegiate experiences like Heroes of the Dorm,” Watson explains. “We launched with the collegiate Rocket League series in early July, and this is our soft launch into collegiate esports. It is where we are allowing players who are enrolled in colleges all over North America, to make teams of three and play in these competitive environments while earning prizes.”

Watson says he is open to expanding that beyond the US, assuming there’s the demand for it.

It’s certainly commendable, and Rocket League does have a certain simplicity about it that could see it go far. It’s now a case of Psyonix keeping that momentum going.

“One of our visions that we try to hold to is to create a premium sports product in the esports world,” Watson concludes. “That is something that drives us. We do think our game is one of the best suited games for esports in general.”(source: gamesindustry.biz )